The 9 Best Lightweight Laptops of 2021

Ultrabooks fulfill all of your computing needs without the added bulk and weight

The Ultimate Laptop Buying Guide
The Ultimate Laptop Buying Guide
Introduction

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The Rundown
“Expect up to 18.3 hours of battery life from this capable portable work station.”
“While this convertible is quite small, it still manages to offer a generous edge-to-edge 13-inch touch display.”
Best for Students:
Google Pixelbook Go at Amazon
“Chromebooks tend to be portable and student-friendly devices, and the Google Pixelbook Go is no exception.”
“Performance-wise, it’s a powerhouse with a tenth-generation Intel Core i7 processor and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 Max-Q graphics.”
The light weight and the long-lasting battery of the X1 Nano makes it a great option for business travel.
Best for Writers:
ASUS ZenBook UX333FA at Amazon
“This laptop sports a unique hinge that raises the keyboard slightly when the lid is opened for a better typing angle.”
“Impressive internals support memory-heavy tasks like coding and video editing as well as some lightweight gaming.”
Best for Video Editing:
Apple MacBook Pro (16-Inch) at Amazon
“Capable of handling the most demanding creative projects such as 3D rendering, professional video editing, and gaming development.”
Best for Photo Editing:
Apple MacBook Pro at Amazon
“This device sports a vivid Retina display with P3 wide color gamut technology that Apple says renders 25% more colors than sRGB.”

If you need a device that can travel well or is easy to move around, the best lightweight laptops are totable 2- to 4-pound ultrabooks with displays that range from 13 to 16 inches. While they’re usually much slimmer and smaller overall than the best 17-inch and larger laptops, most lightweight laptops are capable enough to tackle whatever tasks you throw their way without the burden of extra weight.

Most have enough processing power, RAM, and storage to complete routine multitasking for the typical workday, but specialized models can rival the power of brawnier laptops or desktops with heavy-duty processors, expandable internals, and vivid and large displays with advanced graphics and color rendering. These attributes are helpful for creative tasks such as photo or video editing and enjoyable gaming. Above-average battery life that extends beyond a workday is also a bonus, and some models don’t require a recharge for 18 hours or longer. Other first-rate comforts include cellular connectivity, durable form factors, and biometrics for quick and secure access. 

Read on for our top picks of the best lightweight laptops.

Best for Work: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon

What We Like
  • Impressive battery life

  • Up to 512GB SSD

  • Thin yet rugged build

What We Don't Like
  • Requires special ethernet adapter

  • No microSD slot

Lightweight work laptops should travel well and be able to get you through the day on a single charge, and the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon fits that description to a tee. This laptop won’t be cumbersome to travel with since it weighs just 2.4 pounds and measures just a bit over 0.5 inches thick. The larger 14-inch FHD, anti-glare and low-power display offers crisp views of whatever you’re working on and the spill- and drop-proof build and impressive battery life of up to 18.3 hours makes this a capable portable work station.  

Other helpful features include a fingerprint sensor, backlit keyboard, and a camera shutter cover for more privacy. The ThinkPad X1 Carbon can also be equipped with up to a 1TB SSD and up to 16GB of RAM for easy file storage and seamless multitasking. While the port selection is also generous, this laptop lacks a microSD and does require a proprietary ethernet adapter if you prefer a wired connection.  

Best for Travel: Microsoft Surface Pro X

Microsoft Surface Pro X
What We Like
  • Less than 2 pounds

  • Up to 15 hours of battery life

  • Edge-to-edge 13-inch touchscreen

What We Don't Like
  • Keyboard and pen sold separately

  • Limited ports


If you’re keen on the flexibility a convertible laptop offers, the Microsoft Surface Pro X is an attractive option. While the keyboard and accompanying pen are sold separately and you’ll have just two USB-C ports to work with, the main body of the Surface Pro X can rest flat on a surface or be propped up at your preferred angle with the help of the kickstand positioned on the back of the device. This versatile and super-compact 1.7-pound and 0.28-inch thick build and excellent 15-hour battery life make it an ideal traveling laptop.

While this convertible is quite small, it still manages to offer a generous edge-to-edge 13-inch touch display with a high 2880x1920 resolution plus an assortment of other desirable assets such as an accelerometer, gyroscope, ambient light sensor, LTE support, and 1080p front- and rear-facing cameras with 4K quality supported on the latter. The custom Microsoft SQ1 processor with the standard 8GB RAM and 128GB SSD should be speedy and versatile enough for a variety of multitasking, but if you want more memory and storage, up to 16GB RAM and 512GB SSD configurations are available.

Best for Students: Google Pixelbook Go

What We Like
  • Boots quickly

  • Battery lasts for at least 12 hours

  • 1080p camera

What We Don't Like
  • Limited selection of ports

  • Storage capped at 265GB

Chromebooks tend to be portable and student-friendly devices, and the Google Pixelbook Go is no exception. While the option of an upgraded processor, 4K display, and more storage and memory could start to add up, the standard Intel Core M3 processor and 8GB RAM and a 64GB SSD is relatively budget-friendly. This standard configuration delivers speedy boot times of mere seconds and there’s plenty of cloud storage to meet most students’ file storing needs. As with most Chromebooks, port selection is limited, but the trade-off comes with desirable portability at around 0.5 inches thick and a little over 2 pounds. 

While it’s not the most advanced display available in the category, the 13.3-inch HD screen will do just fine for most tasks, including video streaming. A bonus is that the 1080p webcam is a step up from most Chromebooks and ultrabooks, which could be great for virtual learning. Another asset is the long 12-hour battery life and the ability to eke out 2 hours of use with a quick 20-minute charge. 

"Nearly everything about using this quiet, slim device is enjoyable." – Jonno Hill, Product Tester

Best for Gaming: Razer Blade Stealth 13

What We Like
  • Durable but lightweight build

  • Vibrant FHD display

  • Upgradeable SSD

What We Don't Like
  • Middling battery life

  • Thicker bottom bezel

If you’ve always dreamed of a lightweight gaming laptop, Razer has combined the appeal of slim ultrabooks with the graphics and processing power of gaming-ready machines in the Razer Blade Stealth 13. It sports a sleek and durable aluminum and anodized build that isn’t too unwieldy at approximately 0.6 inches thick and 3.2 pounds. The 13-inch FHD display is matte and supports up to a 120Hz refresh rate and is surrounded by razor-thin top and side bezels, and is sRGB-tuned for color accuracy and vibrancy. Oddly, the bottom bezel is significantly larger, which our product tester found to be an unfortunate loss of valuable real estate. He also experienced the battery life to be less impressive but quick to recharge.  

The Stealth 13 is billed as a gaming laptop, and that it is. Performance-wise, it’s a powerhouse with a tenth-generation Intel Core i7 processor, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 Max-Q graphics, and 16GB of RAM and 512GB SSD, which is upgradeable. For general ease of use and productivity, this compact laptop offers other useful features such as biometrics for instant facial recognition access and numerous ports for connecting to gaming or other peripherals.

The Razer Blade Stealth 13 is a beautiful ultrabook, crafted from a unibody aluminum frame with an anodized finish.” – Jonno Hill, Product Tester

Best Battery Life: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano
What We Like
  • Weights less than 2 pounds

  • Strong CPU and GPU performance

  • Great keyboard

  • Excellent battery life

  • Loud, clear audio

  • Windows Hello support

What We Don't Like
  • Mediocre display

  • Disappointing Wi-Fi performance

  • High pricing

  • Limited connectivity

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano is built with travelers and frequent fliers in mind. It’s extremely light, starting at under two pounds, and lasts eight to nine hours on a charge. Yet it also packs excellent performance, especially in graphics workloads, where it’s shockingly capable for a 13-inch laptop.

This is a great laptop for productivity. ThinkPads are known for class-leading keyboards, and the X1 Nano does not disappoint. It also has a TrackPointer and an IR camera that supports Windows Hello for quick login via facial recognition. Our reviewer found the display a bit disappointing, though, as it can’t keep up with Apple’s MacBook Air or the new OLED display in Dell’s XPS 13.

Still, the X1 Nano would be competitive if not for a serious problem: price. This laptop starts just north of $1,450 and goes up from there. Whatever specifications you choose, the X1 Nano will be a few hundred dollars more expensive than a similar MacBook Air or Dell XPS 13. That’s hard to justify unless portability is your top priority. 

"I saw about eight to nine hours of battery life in day-to-day productivity including web browsing, document editing, and light photo editing." Matthew Smith, Product Tester



Best for Writers: ASUS ZenBook UX333FA

What We Like
  • Long battery life

  • Number keypad

  • Raised keyboard for ergonomics

What We Don't Like
  • Small touchpad

If you spend hours typing on your laptop, ergonomics can be something of an issue. The ASUS Zenbook UX333FA solves that with a unique hinge that raises the keyboard slightly when the lid is opened for a better typing angle. This also serves the dual purpose of adding increased cooling power and better audio quality (for the bottom-facing speakers). If you’re a fan of dedicated number keypads, this laptop offers one on the touchpad, which may feel slightly cramped if you prefer more spacious touchpads.

The display is notably generous at 13.3-inches on the diagonal and with barely-there bezels that put the focus on your work. The long potentially 14-hour battery life and hardware, which includes an Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB RAM, and a 256GB SSD, are also helpful features for hassle-free hours of writing or multitasking on the move. And at just about 2.6 pounds and 0.67 inches thick, you shouldn’t have trouble finding room in your bag for this portable laptop.

Best for Coding: Huawei Matebook X Pro

Huawei Matebook X Pro
What We Like
  • Vibrant 3K display

  • Impressive hardware

  • Long battery life

What We Don't Like
  • Odd camera placement

If you’re a Windows user and programmer who likes the MacBook aesthetic, consider the Huawei MateBook X Pro, a lightweight and attractive alternative. Design-wise, this laptop is similar in dimensions and weight with a thickness of 0.57 inches and a weight of 2.93 pounds. It’s not supremely light, but the capable internals and display make up for that extra bit of heft. The processor choices range from an Intel Core i5 or i7 with up to 16GB RAM and a 512GB SSD and a NVIDIA GeForce MX15 graphics card that makes it capable of handling memory-heavy tasks like coding and video editing as well as some lightweight gaming.   

You can expect to get at least a full day of battery life from this lightweight laptop, though Huawei says it’s capable of delivering up to 14 hours with office work or up to 15 hours of web browsing. There’s also a handy fingerprint/power button that offers instant access to the machine if you don’t like passcodes or facial recognition. One odd feature that could take some getting used to is the placement of the camera on the top row of the keyboard, which could make finding a flattering angle for video conferencing slightly tricky.

The Huawei MateBook X Pro Signature Edition is solidly-equipped on the power front, packing a quad-core, 8th-generation Intel Core i7-8550U processor with 16GB RAM.”– Andrew Hayward, Product Tester

Best for Video Editing: Apple MacBook Pro (16-Inch)

What We Like
  • Powerful and fast processor

  • Up to 8TB SSD

  • Retina display

What We Don't Like
  • Heavier build

  • Pricey

The Apple MacBook Pro 16-Inch isn’t a featherweight ultrabook or the most affordable option in the lightweight laptop class, but considering all the power at your fingertips, this is quite a manageable 4.3-pound workhorse. You have your choice between an Intel Core i7 or i9 processor with 16GB of RAM (expandable to 64GB RAM) as well as a standard 512GB or 1TB SSD that can be upgraded to an astonishing 8GB of SSD storage. This processing power and storage is generous enough to support routine multitasking and the most demanding creative projects such as 3D rendering, professional video editing, and gaming development. 

Of course, visual tasks require a high-quality display, and the vibrant 16-inch 3072x1920 Retina display is the largest from the brand in laptop form. It uses the P3 wide color gamut to render true-to-life video and photo quality. You can also expect up to 11 hours of battery life, the convenience of a touch bar with secure touch ID access, and a Thunderbolt 3 port that supports up to two 6K external displays.

Best for Photo Editing: Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020)

Apple introduced the Macbook Pro with M1 chip in 2020.
What We Like
  • Apple M1 chip

  • Up to 20 hours of battery life

  • Up to 2TB SSD

What We Don't Like
  • Not all apps optimized for M1 chip

  • Lack of ports

If you want the capable chops of the Apple MacBook Pro 16-Inch in a slightly more portable form factor, the 3-pound MacBook Pro 13-Inch with the M1 chip is a worthy alternative—especially if you need a machine for photo editing on the go. Like the 16-inch variation, this device sports a vivid Retina display with P3 wide color gamut technology that Apple says renders 25% more colors than sRGB. The new 8-core M1 chip is an impressive addition that delivers lightning-quick performance supported by up to 16GB RAM and up to a 2TB SSD. 

One catch with the specialty chip is that not all apps that run on MacBooks with Intel chips are optimized for M1-equipped models. But popular photo editing software such as Lightroom and Photoshop are covered by native apps or with the help of the Rosetta 2 translator that bridges the gap for hiccup-free use. This latest version of the 13-inch MacBook Pro does have a limited selection of ports (just two Thunderbolt ports), but it also boasts a slew of amenities including a handy Touch Bar with touch-ID access and slots for customizing shortcuts and the longest battery life of any MacBook—up to 20 hours.

"This year's MacBook represents the best value we've seen in an Apple laptop for some time." – Alice Newcome-Beill, Product Tester

Final Verdict

The Acer Swift 7 is our top pick in the lightweight laptop category based on its ultra-slim and portable build, generous, touch-capable 14-inch display, and convenience features such as cellular connectivity, a fingerprint reader, and daylong battery life. The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon is also noteworthy for its lightweight yet rugged build and capable specs for multitasking at the office. For specialized creative tasks on the go, it’s tough to beat the Apple MacBook Pro 13-Inch (M1 2020) and its incredible new processor, exceptional Retina display, and extra-long battery longevity.

About Our Trusted Experts

Yoona Wagener is a technology and commerce writer. She has tested a variety of wearables, peripherals, and laptops for Lifewire.

Matthew Smith is a veteran consumer tech journalist who's been covering the industry since 2007. He's the former Lead Editor of the product reviews team at Digital Trends, and he specializes in PC hardware, mobile

What to Look for in a Lightweight Laptop

Screen size: Smaller 11-inch or 13-inch displays can be perfectly adequate for most tasks and more portable at 2 to 3 pounds (or less). It is possible to find larger displays of 15 inches or more if you want or need a bigger screen. The trade off for a bigger screen is a bit more weight to tote around, but it could be worth it.

Battery life: Many lightweight laptops also tend to have solid battery performance. If you prefer spending less time recharging or searching for an available outlet while traveling, some models have extended capacities of 11 hours or more.

Processor and memory: Ultrabooks or light convertible laptops can typically handle any routine computing task you ask of them, but if you have special needs like photo editing, video editing, or gaming, you’ll want to look for more powerful processors and extra RAM that can support more involved software or demanding tasks.

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